Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Lacking a bit of Real Fear

I failed to make the cut for the final twenty in the Campaign for Real Fear. It's disappointing, but hardly surprising. There were a hundred entrants on the last day alone. To stand out amongst that would take something fairly spectacular and I think I only managed to muster okay.

Here's the story anyway:


It wasn't a race hate crime. I know what they're saying, but they're wrong. What happened to Abdul Razzaq had nothing to do with the colour of his skin.

It was because of the other...stuff.

We knew. We all knew. Word gets around.

The authorities never do anything though. Not until it's too late.

We weren't going to let that happen.

It was Bill Jackson's idea. He got it after visiting some museum in Europe.

We got the cartwheel from Roger Carter's pub. It was a huge wooden thing that took up most of the back wall.

We got Razzaq as he was shutting up his shop. John Cooper shoved a bag over his head and we bundled him into the back of Dave Shirley's van.

There's a big flat rock out by the edge of the common. We tied him to it with his arms and legs stretched wide. He put up a fight and cussed us good and proper, but there were too many of us.

He looked puzzled when we rolled out the wheel. I was puzzled too. It was just a wheel - big, wooden, solid, maybe six feet across.

And heavy. Really heavy.

Bill got the two biggest men - that was me and Dave Shirley - to pick it up and carry it over Razzaq's body. Bill gave the signal and we smashed the edge of the wheel down on Razzaq's arm. I thought it was the worst sound I'd ever hear in my life, like a cleaver coming down on a slab of meat, only wetter. But it wasn't. That came later.

We ignored Razzaq's screams, lifted the wheel back up and then brought it back down again with another of those thuds that travels right up through your bones. All told I reckon we dropped the wheel on him maybe twelve or thirteen more times - three for each arm, four for each leg.

Then we put him on the wheel. That was the worst part - threading his arms and legs through the spokes. His limbs were all floppy and flexible. I remember thinking he was just like that Mr Men character...what's his name? Mr Tickles, yeah that's it, the one with arms like snakes. As I twisted his arm between those thick wooden spokes I heard his splintered bones grind together. It's the worst sound you'll ever hear. It's more than a sound, it's a feeling - like nails down a blackboard or broken glass in a sock - that gets right inside you, rucks up the skin on your forearms, sets your teeth on edge.

We hoisted the wheel up on a stake and left him there, mumbling to whatever god he worshipped, while the sun went down behind the trees.

It wasn't because he was black. We're not racist.

We did it because he was a kiddie-fiddler.

We wanted our kids to be safe. If you've got any of your own you'd understand.

You'd know he deserved it.

He was a paedophile.

Wasn't he?


Trying to get below 500 words was an interesting exercise. I think this was a story that needed to linger over each thud of the wheel coming down to make the reader wince with each strike. In that respect it's probably not the right story for the length.

Not bad, but not good enough. And yeah, it is exactly one of those 'nothing as scary as us humans' stories I railed against a couple of posts ago. Serves me right then. :D

Ah well. A nice distraction, but now it's time to get back to the girls with horns, wings, tails and insatiable sexual appetites.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Don't be too clever clever...

More competitions. This time Literotica's Earth Day competition. After missing the last couple of Lit comps and not really posting any new stories for a few months, I thought it was a good time to finish off the Earth Day story I failed to finish for last year. Inevitably, the short little 3,000 word story I envisaged mutated into this monstrosity. Inevitably, it's also receiving a battering in the score department.

Which shouldn't be a surprise. Normally I save the nastiest and straightup bizarre stories for the competitions. Why? Winning for me is whacking someone in the happysack when they weren't expecting a horror story. What can I say. I'm a little perverse.

But...I liked this one.

It was all clever clever stuff. Poe's Masque of the Red Death mixed in with environmental issues, a truly bizarre monster and maybe some allegory about mankind on the planet as a whole. And, and, and...what about the erotica?

Ah yeah.


Bad Horror-head.

Somebody on the MGU board gave it to me straight:

Not your best work. You made me hate the characters with a passion, and the monster just made me want to take a shower. There's a reason you're getting thrashed.

Yep. Clever clever is fine, but don't lose sight of people's expectations. Don't lose the 'erotic' in erotic horror.

But on the other hand it sounds like I did indeed whack people in their happysacks. So all is not lost :D.

Now where did Rosa and Verdé get to...

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

New monsters...or another tired old look in the mirror?

I caught a nice article in the Guardian about the Campaign for Real Fear short story competition. I don't know much about Maura McHugh, but I read a few of Christopher Fowler's books when I was younger, with "Disturbia" probably my favourite.

I like what they're getting at though. Where are the new monsters? Damn right, there're only so many vamps, woofs and brain-munchers you can take before you want to decapitate the lot of them and shove silver-tipped stakes through their skulls just to make sure they stay dead for a good decade or so.

I'm interested to see what comes out of this. My worry is I've heard arguments like this in horror before and all that comes out of it is a slew of "there's nothing more monstrous than us humans" stories. To be fair, there isn't. When it comes to sheer gut-wrenching nastiness, real life puts a shiv in the guts of horror fiction every time. However, just like vamps, there's only so many humans being shitty to other humans stories you can read before it starts getting tedious. Like tuning into Doctor Who only to find out you've got Eastenders (a dreadful, dreary, miserable British soap) instead.

Vampires, Werewolves and Zombies are popular for a reason. They might not possess the same shock value as stories grounded more in reality, but they do offer escapism. Personally, I think the challenge is to continue to shock an increasingly genre-savvy audience, without boring them with the same grim, mundane everyday existence they're trying to escape in the first place.

I'm biased though. I like my monsters. The weirder the better. Hopefully they'll turf up something as exotic, terrifying and downright strange as China Mieville's slake moths and insane multi-dimensional spiders.

I might give the competition a try. That 500 word limit is a real bitch though. At least it'll keep horror-head occupied, which might leave erotica-head free to write some stories where the main character gets to have sex and not get their soul ripped out, all their fluids drained or any of the other bizarre and unusual deaths I seem to subject my characters to :D

And rather predictably, the first idea I had - A "there's nothing more monstrous than us humans" story.


Saturday, April 03, 2010

On the delights of being published... and the frustrations of not being able to tell a soul

Last week a special box arrived for me in the post.

The contents of this box are very special to me. Ever since I was a small child, one of my lifetime ambitions has been to get a book published. In this box is proof I’ve achieved that goal. It’s something I want to yell from the rooftops. Look! I did it! Look at all these lovely pages; the words written on them are mine.

But I can’t.

It’s like this. In this box is a print copy of a book I wrote, but now this box needs to be dropped down a very deep shaft and kept in darkness lest its evil contaminates the world. No, you can’t read it. The contents will flay your mind and rip your brain out of your ears in wriggling chunks.

Actually, it’s not really that bad, although I imagine it would raise a few eyebrows amongst people who know me.

On telling friends and family I’ve got a book coming out, the conversation usually goes like this:

“Can I read it?”

“Well...um...I don’t think it’s really the kind of thing you’d like to read.”

“Oh, is it really gory?”

Grabs lifeline.

“Yes yes, really gory and unpleasant.”

It’s funny that, hiding behind a screen of blood and gore rather than owning up to writing a little bit of kinky erotica. The problem is, if you write a bit of kinky erotica, people automatically seem to think, “Oh, I never knew you were into that”, as if all erotica is written with firsthand experience. Whereas, with horror, nobody seriously thinks Stephen King is a mass-murdering psychopath.

My concerns are of course exaggerated. No one in my family, if they read one of my stories and realised it was me, is going to string me up from the family oak and curse the day I was born. The real reason is me. When I first started writing these stories I knew I wanted to combine horror and erotica in such a way that the outcome would be both arousing and disturbing in equal measure. And to do that effectively I knew I needed to smash the levers of self-censorship, to rip the whole machinery out of my mind. Thus, Mr Hydra entered the world.

Pseudonyms are great. Now I can write what the hell I like and not worry about what people might think of the real me in the real world. ‘Too far’ no longer exists. I can be as kinky, filthy and weird as I like. I can describe the golden arc of a stream of piss as it loops and flows within the transparent body of an alluring water spirit, a scene both revolting and weirdly beautiful. I can describe a sexy demon with the lower half of a spider as she straddles and fucks her helpless silk-bound prey, a scene both terrifying and weirdly arousing. The freedom to be as bizarre as I like is fantastic.

Except when the book comes out and I really want to tell everyone I know, but can’t.

Oh, well. I guess it’ll have to hide away in a quiet little corner on my bookshelf.

I know. That’s all that matters.

M. E. Hydra’s “A Succubus for Christmas and other tales of Devilish Delights” will be out later this year.